If you are an owner thinking of selling your firm, you have likely developed skills as a business owner that you may take for granted. These are skills that are incredibly valuable and can benefit your buyer through a mentoring relationship. This would be especially helpful for first-time buyers of CPA firms, but would likely be helpful for more seasoned buyers as well.
For anyone who has happened to read the E-myth, you probably well-know the specific differences between being a good CPA and being a good owner of a CPA firm. Going from technician to business owner requires different mindsets and new skills.
Being a business owner for the first time is exciting.
The energy and excitement for the new owner is often palpable. Clients and staff love that! The enthusiasm provides incredible fuel to power through that first year or so. The key is to harness that energy so that the practice thrives. The owner needs to have structure to stay properly focused on the key drivers of the business. Planning is essential to map out where pitfalls and opportunities are, so that the owner is not ignoring key areas and/or paying attention to trivial details that don’t produce results. Who better to help with that planning, and then staying on-plan, than the previous owner?
Combining wisdom and energy – (Combining relaxed thinking and powerful execution)
A little bit of high-level guidance based on years of experience can go a very long way. Buyer and seller always see things a little differently and the buyer should be in the driver’s seat, but the objective experience of the seller should generally be carefully considered.
Our Transition Philosophy in a nutshell.
In general, we want the transition to happen as quickly as possible. Capable buyers don’t need an owner standing over them and micromanaging their every move. However, many buyers do need limited guidance and input from the previous owner during the first year of ownership. This helps them stay out of the weeds and stay aware of the big-picture.
After the initial transition period, monthly meetings can be extremely helpful to go over the results, obstacles and opportunities of the firm. We recommend a lot of pre-closing planning to our clients regarding transition. One thing that past buyers have found to be really helpful is having monthly budget projections with a full P&L. If buyer and seller simply sat down monthly and compared budget vs. actual and had a line item discussion of material variances, most integration issues could be addressed in a timely fashion. The key is to meet at regular, agreed-upon intervals and create an agenda that works for both parties and gets results for the practice.
About the Author: Brannon is the founder of Poe Group Advisors and has been facilitating successful accounting practice transitions throughout the US and Canada since 2003. Brannon started his career in public accounting as an auditor with Ernst & Young. He is the author of “Accountant’s Flight Plan: Best Practices for Today’s Firms” (published by the AICPA and CPA Canada), “On Your Own: How to Start Your Own CPA Firm,” as well as multiple blogs and the “Accountant’s Flight Plan” podcast.